Autonomic nervous tests and heart rate variability (HRV) have been used to assess cardiac autonomic function and to evaluate long-term prognosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the short- and long-term reproducibility of HRV parameters and autonomic nervous tests according to body position (supine or standing). The study group consisted of 26 healthy subjects. Autonomic nervous tests and HRV were performed twice during the day and the results were averaged. The protocol was then repeated 3 days after each examination and also after 6 and 24 months. Autonomic nervous tests included deep breathing, Valsalva manoeuvre and isometric muscle exercise (handgrip), as well as blood pressure and heart rate in response to standing. ECG recordings were taken for 10 min during spontaneous breathing for HRV analysis. We found that the reproducibility of some parameters of the autonomic nervous test were independent of body position [E/I ratio (heart rate response to deep breathing)], whereas other parameters were dependent on body position (Valsalva manoeuvre and blood pressure response to sustained handgrip). In addition, within-day measurements of those parameters varied from non-reproducible (Valsalva ratio, handgrip and blood pressure response to standing) to moderately reproducible [E/I ratio and 30/15 ratio (heart rate response to standing)]. Among the HRV parameters, we found that total power (TP), low (LF)- and high (HF)-frequency were reproducible not only for measurements made within the same day, but also during short- and long-term observations, and only the LF/HF ratio was dependent on body position. We conclude that only a few autonomic nervous tests are reproducible in the short- and long-term. Because HRV parameters obtained during spontaneous respiration showed high reproducibility for measurements made within the same day as well as in the short- and long-term, they should be used instead of autonomic nervous tests when long-term observations are carried out in a healthy population.

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